Kuala Lumpur, Jan 16 (Agencies): The controversy, elicited over the use of the word "pariah" in a Malay language novel, continues to unnerve the ethnic Indians even as the book's author national laureate Abdullah Hussain said it was not intended to offend or belittle the minority community.

Abdullah, the 91-year-old wheel-chair bound writer of the book 'Interlok', said he was disappointed that people misunderstood his work and accused him of being racist.
The book has been recommended as a reading requirement for senior school children in Malay literature.

Abdullah said the novel was written to describe the unity between the natives of the peninsula, who were Malays, and the Chinese who came to work in the tin mines and Indians brought in by the English as labourers.

"We have to understand that the term 'pariah' exists in India, but not in Malaysia... That's the difference between India and Malaysia," he said.

"Furthermore, the word exists in the dictionary, but Indians here want to forget about the caste system and the term pariah," he said.

"If you read until the end, you will see the actual meaning. I pictured the respective roles of the Malays, Chinese and Indians. The unity between the three races shaped our nation and the Malaysian race," he added.

At a ponggal festival at the Malaysian Indian Congress headquarters on Saturrday, MIC president G Palanivel maintained that the word "pariah" should be dropped from the novel.

He said although the issue was not political, it was sensitive to the Malaysian Indian community.
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has asked Malaysia's largest ethnic Indian party MIC to set up a panel to sort out the controversy over a book dealing with the caste system among the minority community.

The MIC has selected Hindu Sangam president RS Mohan Shan, University Malaya's former head of Indian Studies Department Dr S Singaravelu, the department's current head Associate Professor S Kumaran, MIC education bureau chairman Tan Sri Dr T Marimuthu and former Education Ministry official G Krishnabagwan to be on the panel.